Justin Erasmus, NSRI Port Elizabeth deputy station commander, said:
At 07h47, Saturday, 14th January, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated following reports of an 18 year old local spearfisherman missing at sea while free-dive spearfishing at Thunderbolt Reef near to Cape Recife.
The Sea Rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV was launched and our NSRI rescue vehicle, towing the sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski IV, was dispatched to be launched at the Noordhoek ski-boat club.
EC Government Health EMS, an EMS helicopter – Aeromed 3, the SA Police Services, Coastal Water Rescue, The Nelson Mandela Bay Beach Managers office and a Police dive unit were activated.
NSRI activated the Noordhoek Divers (Wildside Divers) who, while preparing to launch on a dive, diverted their craft Blue Pearl II with 9 Wildside scuba divers to join in the search and Coastal Water Rescue had initiated a shoreline search and the Tactical Task Force had initiated a search using their thermal imaging camera.
Port Elizabeth Air Traffic Control were notified and broadcast to all light aircraft in the area to be vigilant and to keep a look-out for a missing person on the water in the area and to report any sightings.
At least 6 additional spearfishermen, who were in the area at the time, had responded to the call for assistance that had been made by 2 experienced local spearfishermen, believed to be aged in their 40’s and 50’s, who had raised the alarm after an 18 year old local male spearfisherman, who was free-dive spearfishing with them at Thunderbolt Reef at the time, had failed to surface during a spearfishing free-dive.
The two men had free-dive searched in an effort to locate the teenager after he had failed to surface but reportedly after only finding his speargun they had then surfaced, raised the alarm, and they had then continued to free dive search before being joined in their search by the Noordhoek Wildside scuba divers, who initiated a scuba dive search, and by the additional spearfishermen, who free-dived to assist the two men in a search.
On our NSRI sea rescue craft arriving on the scene we were notified by skippers of the boats that were in attendance of multiple scuba divers and free divers in the water searching and we stood off but shortly after our arrival the body of the teenager was located and recovered to the surface by his two fellow spearfishermen and the body was taken aboard the sea rescue craft and the teenager was confirmed to be deceased.
The body of the teenager was brought to the Noordhoek ski-boat club aboard our sea rescue craft where the body was taken into the care of Police and the Forensic Pathology Services.
Family of the deceased teenager are being supported by Police trauma counsellors.
Police have opened an inquest docket.